After more than 60 years of owning a horse and participating in various equestrian activities, I thought I had a rather broad knowledge of the “horse world”. Recently, a friend mentioned that he grew up with horses. I was surprised. He then casually said, “My mother is ranked first in the USA and third in the world in para-reining.” Well, knock me over with a feather. I was impressed and sorry to admit that I had never heard of para-reining, so I hit Google.

The United States Para Equestrian Association (USPEA) provides leadership for equestrian sport for athletes with an eligible physical impairment. There are three divisions listed on their web site: Para-Dressage, Para-Driving and Para–Reining.

Para Reining is a competitive sport designed for riders with physical disabilities. Para riders have a measurable and/or verifiable physical or visual disability. Para Reining is judged on the performance of the horse and rider as a team. Riders are not judged on their level of disability.

There are five Grades for Para-Reining Events. Grade I is for the Athletes with a severe Impairment; Grade 5 is for the Athletes with the least Impairment. The pattern difficulty increases as the grade goes up.

Our friend’s mother, Mindy Davis, competes as a Grade 3. A veteran of the western circuit before a stroke and then complications from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever sidelined her from riding, Mindy credits the vision and spirit behind Para – Reining for motivating her to get out and go to the NRHA shows again. Mindy explained, “My balance is very shaky, and my muscle spasms were so bad I never dreamed I would ever compete in reining again. Para Reining has given me my joy back!”

For many lifelong riders, it can be a deeply trying process after illness or accidents to rebuild and rebrand yourself as a para rider. It is their passion for horses and drive to compete and improve their skills on horseback. Para sports open a competitive parallel track but it’s the horses that offer a unique opportunity for equality and partnership in addition to the mental and physical therapeutic benefits. (From an article in the Reiner.)

My “accidental” encounter with Para Reining is an example of the diversity and scope of our equine world. Even though we have our own special interests, there is a lot more out there and we are enriched by it.

Linda Golden, PEC Legislative Chairman